Communal power nap

Sleeping StudentWe have our first test of the school year next Tuesday and today we were discussing three scientific findings that I thought might help the students to study better for that test:

1. There is some evidence that physically writing down information actually helps it to sink securely into one’s brain, that there is actually something about the act of writing itself that helps the memory to retain what one has been studying. This led to a conversation about the writing of flash cards being possibly more useful than the using of flash cards and that just rewriting one’s notes might be enough to help information get integrated into one’s own body of knowledge. “So, it won’t work by using a computer?”

2. There is some evidence to support that seven serious exposures to material also helps one to retain it. This meant that reviewing the material each evening and three times over the weekend would probably be enough for them to grasp what they needed to be successful on the test. “Can we review more than seven times?”

3. There is a lot of evidence supporting the value of sleep in learning. If one gets enough sleep each night, the material one is trying to grasp will actually become more solidly affixed and accessible. “That’s a great idea!”

I shared the story with them of a student in my freshman class in college who hadn’t studied all semester and during the week of final exams had stayed up the entire week (on speed) in order to catch up. He got to the exams and was given his blue book (remember those?) and wrote madly for the entire three hours allotted. After he handed the blue book in, the teacher realized that though the student had written for the total of three hours, he had forgotten to move to the line below and had spent the three hours writing on the same line (he was clearly fried). Needless to say the student did not return the following  semester. The story definitely held their attention.

“So, after we review in class, can we have a nap?” NF asked.

“Yeah,” they all agreed. Loudly.

We had a few terms to finish in our review and then there was about a minute left of class. I turned the lights out. “Nap time!”

Their heads immediately went down. It was absolutely silent in the room (quite an accomplishment for 8th graders). Charmed by their innocent and trusting participation in our communal power nap, I announced after one minute, “It’s time.” I turned the lights back on and, with great amusement, watched them as they noisily chatted and joked on their way into the hallway and to their next classes.

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